Nobl Coffee Takes New England by Cold Brew Storm
Two years ago, Connor Roelke started Nobl coldbrew and Nitro cold-brew coffee without having perfected either. Still, he chose a name to represent an elevated product with higher quality and more commitment than that of any competitor. The irony would be thick save that Roelke, now 24, has seen Nobl through no matter the work necessary—like learning to make amazing cold-brew in a single night—but that’s a story we’ll come back to.
Today, after industrial kitchen stints and a brief Newmarket, New Hampshire storefront, Nobl’s headquarters are in Exeter, complete with 2,000 gallons of brewing capacity, a walk-in refrigerator, sack upon sack of fresh roast, and canisters of nitrogen to match. The industrial space enables Roelke’s small but devoted team of fellow twenty-somethings to create multiple single-batch cold-brews and Nitro coldbrews to fill repeat orders for cafes and vendors in Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
To each customer, Nobl provides a kegerator, the last (though optional) step in dispensing a product that dares any comparison to iced coffee. But if not hot-brewed then cooled, what is cold-brew? In Roelke’s words, it’s “fundamentally simple”: ground coffee soaked in cold water, creating a smooth finish that is low in acidity and bitterness. So what’s to love about Nobl’s cold-brew? To answer this, let’s compare cold-brew processes.
Generic cafe’s process: Soak roast in a bucket of cold water, leave overnight (usually under a counter for sake of room), then drain into smaller containers and refrigerate.
Nobl’s process: Soak roast in refrigerator to create a crisper flavor profile, drain, then seal and flush with nitrogen to lessen oxidation (thereby avoiding that ‘old coffee’ taste) before storing in kegs.
To create its Nitro cold-brew, Roelke’s team further nitrogenizes select brews, infusing the high pressured gas into each keg. And because nitrogen doesn’t dissolve as much as carbon dioxide does in soda, the release of its low solubility point crafts coffee so silky smooth that it’s as if it carries cream and sugar, but without the thick sweetness masking the coffee’s profile.
And although Nitro cold-brew fares quite well by travel mug, fans like using a glass to capture the full effect of its drafted frothiness, a fine libation experience that some compare to the black and tan of Guinness. Detractors say the label is hype and the stout-effect a trick of the draft pull, to which Roelke quickly and maybe expectedly replies, “It’s not just a gimmick,” but he means it: “A cup and lid doesn’t do it justice.”
In fact, Nobl’s Nitro cold-brew is so popular that not only are cafes replacing iced coffee with it, but a variety of roasters, like Portland’s Coffee By Design and Bedford’s Flight Coffee Co., are working with Nobl to create unique editions of cold-brew and Nitro cold-brew. And eateries like Newmarket’s The Stone Church and The Oakhouse are offering Nobl on draft and even in specialty drinks.
Before all this, Roelke thought he would go into beer brewing. But then, while attending UNH, he simultaneously recognized the oversaturation of the craft beer industry and the buzz of something on the west coast: cold-brew. He loved coffee, and brew-craft already intrigued him, so why not combine them? He’d pitch a business plan and make it work, even if that meant turning an idea into a product overnight, literally. Two years after his overnight third place in UNH’s College of Business & Economic’s 2015 P.J. Holloway Prize Competition, Roelke has settled the eye of Nobl’s New England storm in Exeter. Up ahead? The forecast shows ready-to-drink skies. Look for Nobl coming soon to a grocer near you.